As the media partner for Future Festival Chicago, we had the opportunity to participate in this unique and inspiring all-day conference. As part of a 12-city tour, experts from Toronto-based Trend Hunter delivered a dynamic presentation about the trends impacting businesses and affecting how they connect with consumers and stakeholders.
This multi-media, fast-paced presentation got us excited to start putting into practice what we learned and to share some insights that will help us advise and partner with our clients to survive, and lead, in a rapidly changing world.
- The past impacts us more than we’d like to think. The founder of Trend Hunter encouraged us to look at how things are done and ask if it’s really optimal, all things considered—going beyond the common advice not to do something a certain way just because that’s the way it has always been done or because it’s been successful in the past. The event opened on this theme, illustrating how the width of two horses impacted the measurements of the rocket boosters used on modern day space shuttles, which must be transported by rail. Attendees were led through an interesting story, taking us back to when railroad tracks were laid in old cart paths, originally set by Roman war chariots, which were pulled by two horses.
- Shake up your normal surroundings. The simple act of changing your routine to do something different for a day (visit a museum, get out in nature, explore a new neighborhood) will spark ideas and creativity, or at the very least help you consider things from a different perspective and interact with people outside of your normal sphere.
- Beg, borrow and steal by coordinating staff exchanges with other companies. To get yourself or your team out of your normal routine (see above), learn how they solve problems and innovate, and potentially lend your outside “unrelated” point of view to help them solve problems differently. Future Festival provided a few examples of companies that did week-long exchanges, and the key is to find a partner in a different industry!
- Don’t overlook disruptors and new ideas because you’re complacent in your formula for success . . . and then get left in the dust. Remember to ALWAYS listen to customers and look for new ways of doing things including new partnerships. Future Festival provided few examples of market leaders that overlooked people with small, crazy, improbable and impractical ideas that went against their formula for success—which then became obsolete. Most notably, Blockbuster had multiple chances to buy Netflix but was convinced the money was in snacks and that you can’t sell snacks through a computer; so Blockbuster told the future media-services giant that their product will never succeed.
- Focus on the out-of-scope work during brainstorming sessions, to reach truly exciting ideas beyond your comfort zone.
Presentations throughout the day covered generations and micro-generations, leisure, travel, retail and work culture, as well as marketing. Two major interconnected themes continued to rise to the top: personalization and connection. Consumers of all ages are increasing seeing brands as an extension of themselves. They want to feel connected to a brand and connected to others who like that brand, often through an experience related to the product. It’s increasingly important for brands to think about how they authentically connect with consumers and to foster connections between those consumers.
There are few especially interesting examples that brought to life the ideas of personalization and creating a connection or experience:
- Eataly World, described as a theme park for foodies, goes way beyond dining.
- West Elm Hotels are now in five cities, letting consumers live with the products before committing.
- Vinome, combines your DNA analysis with personal taste preferences, and provides a custom wine profile.
- Twitch as a bonding platform for the LGBTQ community.
- Integrated charity or “volunteer vacations” are on the rise.